A century in his 100th test makes Amla a modern legend
There's a thing about class batsmen like Hashim Amla and making sure that timing is everything.
In choosing his 100th test to make his 26th test match hundred‚ it was a timely return to form for the bearded willow-wielder after his longest dry spell.
Before this‚ he went 14 innings without a hundred dating back to the 109 he made against England at SuperSport Park early last year.
While the aesthetic run plaudits will go to JP Duminy because of his delectable 221-ball 155‚ the significance of Amla's milestone in South Africa's imposing 338/3 on the first day of the third test against Sri Lanka cannot be dumbed down.
In the process of hammering Rangana Herath down the ground for four off his 169th ball‚ Amla (125*) became the eighth batsman and second South African to record a ton in his 100th test.
He joined an esteemed batting group of Colin Cowdrey (104)‚ Javed Miandad (145)‚ Gordon Greenidge (149)‚ Alec Stewart (105)‚ Inzamam-ul-Haq (184)‚ Ricky Ponting (120 and 143*) and Graeme Smith (131) as willow-wielders who graced their landmark games with equally important milestones.
While he made things look very easy towards the end of the day with his wrists finding their fluency and his feet finally moving with their famed mechanical precision‚ it was freight train shunting stuff in the first session after he came in at 45/1 in the 15th over.
Having made the bulk of his number three runs when his country has been up the creek‚ Stephen Cook's early fall to Angelo Mathews for 10 wasn't the most precarious position he's found himself in.
It became tougher when Dean Elgar wastefully gave away his wicket in the next over for 27 when he gave Dimuth Karunaratne catching practice at first slip off Lahiru Kumara.
45/2 after 16 overs having won the toss and choosing to bat under heavy skies‚ a green surface and a probing attack was not the ideal response.
JP Duminy strolled in and made a mockery of the difficult batting conditions by racing to his 50 off only 62 balls while Amla was still trying to fix his batting gearbox.
He hadn't even crossed the 20's at the time.
Duminy turned cover driving into an art-form during his serene march to his sixth test hundred off only 140 ball studded with 14 sumptuous boundaries.
Duminy made batting look so easy‚ it was like Amla took technical drawing instruments to an art class with his timing struggles.
However‚ there's nothing more that wakes Amla up like a dropped catch‚ with Dhananjaya da Silva shelling a regulation chance at gully off Suranga Lakmal in the last over before lunch when Amla was on five.
When he compiled his epic 311* against England at the Oval in 2012‚ he was dropped on 40 by Andrew Strauss.
When Amla is given a life‚ he often makes the most of it.
A clear sign that Amla was finding his groove was the confidence in which he played his shots in reaching his 50 off 109 balls.
The fact his second 50 came off only 60 balls indicated his insatiable hunger to score runs.
Duminy had the chance of surpassing his test-best 166 he compiled in his second test against Australia in Melbourne in 2008‚ but he was smartly snaffled by Kusal Mendis at second slip off the hard working Kumara.
It was Duminy's fourth test 100 at number four‚ creating a selection headache ahead of AB de Villiers impending return ahead of next month's tour to New Zealand.
Duminy and Amla's 292-run third wicket stand was the fourth highest partnership at the Wanderers and set the scene for what could be a formidable first innings total.
Maybe the whitewash Proteas test captain Faf du Plessis has been dreaming off could be a reality.
Amla's diligence and Duminy's fluency have made it a possibility. - TMG Digital